The federal government has begun fine-tuning how it tells people about good and bad nursing homes by displaying online a white-on-red hand alert icon.
The alert icon is posted for nursing homes that have been cited for incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation. It began showing up on the nursing homes' rating page on United States Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in October of 2019.
What is the purpose of the new rating alert?
"The new government tool allows for nursing home transparency," said Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the CMS website.
The Trump administration’s goal with the new tool is to make measurements of quality more readily available to the public. This will help people who are making decisions about long-term care.
Information about how nursing homes fared in an inspection, such as if the facility was cited for abuse, was available previously but required multiple steps to find these reports.
CMS with the alert icon establishes a new government tool that allows for nursing home transparency by making it easier to find inspection results.
Learning about the quality of nursing homes is easy -- just visit the CMS webpage. Type in the nursing home name or zipcode. You'll get a listing of how facilities measured up, in terms of quality of care based on government inspections.
The alert icon will appear with the name of a nursing home on the CMS comparison web page for facilities cited on inspection reports for one or both of the following:
- Abuse that led to harm of a resident within the past year
- Abuse that could have potentially led to harm of a resident in each of the last two years.
The alert icon will be updated monthly when CMS inspection results are updated. This update helps not only the public. Nursing homes also benefit. Updating ensures the facilities don’t continue to be flagged with an alert icon for longer than necessary if most recent inspections show problems were remedied.
The icon is intended to supplement the CMS efforts to help consumers develop a more complete understanding of a facility’s quality.
Enhancing transparency about abuse and neglect
The CMS ratings already included general information about nursing homes like starred ratings; health, fire and safety inspections; staffing; quality of resident care; and penalties.
The display of the alert icon is intended to specify a nursing home’s quality and reported problems. The previous CMS rating system might have failed to capture such nuances. For example, a nursing home cited for an incident of abuse may also have adequate staffing numbers. They may provide excellent dementia or rehabilitative care.
Previously, consumers would clearly see this facility’s performance in these areas through the CMS ratings. The abuse complaint allegation may not have been as clear, however.
The new government tool helps people see both a facility’s high ratings and its problems. This will help those weighing a facility’s overall quality.
Conveying information to people about nursing homes through the display of the alert icon comes after CMS in April announced a five-point plan to reiterate safety and quality in America’s nursing homes.
The plan called for strengthening oversight, enhancing enforcement, increasing transparency, improving quality and putting patients over paperwork.
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